Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Accident

Went to the gym, yesterday and had a little accident. I got a glass for some water, which as is usual, was still wet from being washed. Since I am cautious about not ingesting tap water here, I tried to shake out the glass to get most of the drops out. Seeing that the window was open, I figured I'd just chuck the water outside. Only the window was not open, just clean.

Smashed the glass on the window; blood and broken glass all over the floor and down my hand. It didn't hurt. I went to the locker room to wash my hand in the sink before going to the counter for first aid. For some reason I was willing to let tap water into my blood but not my stomach? Anyway, as soon as the water hit my hand, I felt the pain.

Went up to the counter and was told to come around to the other side. I saw some stools, went over, sat down, The next thing I remember is being woken from a blissful dream by the scent of tiger balm. "Mmm," I said. I opened my eyes and a beautiful smiling Lao woman was holding the tiger balm under my nose. I said "Khop Jai Lai Lai" (thank you very much.) and started to nod off again. Valerie said my name and I opened my eyes. I was being held up by a man and attended to by two women who bandaged my wounds, apparently without washing their hands or wearing gloves. They didn't seem to mind the blood which sent me into shock and made Valerie nauseous.

Looking down at myself, there was blood all over my shorts. I asked is that all blood? The man said "Bo pen yang." which in this case means "It doesn't matter" or "Don't worry about it." Later I realized after the blood had dried and left only a small stain, I may have peed my pants. How embarrassing.

Or it could have been sweat since I was dripping even as I laid down in one of the massage chairs in an air conditioned room while watching Rambo rescue some lady from a Burmese prison. I wondered how most South East Asians felt about Rambo. I told Valerie to finish exercising and I would just sleep here. She would have none of it, for fear I would slip into a shock induced coma. We decided to ask our friends Reg and Laura who both happen to be nurses if that was even possible. I was able to send a more or less coherent text message which Valerie thought was inscrutable. I thought I was doing pretty well.

Reg and Laura noted how poorly my wound had been bandaged and suggested I go to a clinic. The French clinic, which is supposed to be quite good was closed and the Australian one apparently only services members of the commonwealth. That left the International clinic at Mahasoot Friendship Hospiutal- the one you hear horror stories about.

It wasn't too bad- they cleaned me up but only after Valerie paid up front. The only dodgy thing was that the doctor wouldn't open up the small cut on my finger to look for any bits of glass that might still be in there. He said that if there were glass I would feel it while being bandaged and in any case, I'd know within a week because my hand would get infected if there were any glass left inside. Great.

Today, as I changed my dressing, I realized I only had a few minor cuts that I couldn't believe would send anyone into shock. But as I examined the black spot on my finger, wondering if that meant it was infected. I started to sweat again and get a stomach ache and had to sit down.

What a wuss!

Monday, March 09, 2009


My friend Mike just got summoned for jury duty back in the States which reminds me of the time I did my part for jurisprudence...

The trial involved a podiatry patient who accused the doctor of assault and battery for not using a local anesthetic when clipping his in-grown toenail. Apparently the good doctor didn't warn Mr. Mackaluney (name changed to protect the incontinent) that he was proceding to snip, which caused the plaintiff to exclaim "Oh!" in pain.

Mr. Mackaluney represented himself and cross-examined the podiatrist with questions peppered with pseudo legalese- "In so much as your stated compliance with regulations regarding the alleged assault do you now or have you ever felt, in so far as your ability as a medical practitioner, for all intents and purposes..." Nobody could understand what Mr. Mackaluney was trying to ask, and the judge had to instruct him to use simpler language. When he could understand the questions, the doctor replied huffily as if his time was being wasted, which of course, it was.

The podiatrist was represented by two lawyers who asked only a few questions before moving in for the kill: "Mr. Mackaluney, in your deposition you claimed that your sister was abducted. Can you tell the jury about the abduction?" Mr. Mackaluney, unfazed, told his story about how his sister was abducted by aliens. "And how did that make you feel?"

At this point, I raised my hand and said "Excuse, me, as a member of the jury, I don't know if it is my place to object, but clearly Mr. Mackaluney hasn't proper representation and I fail to see what this line of questioning has to do with an in-grown toenail," or something to that effect. Counsel for the defendant replied that since Mr. Mackaluney had mentioned the abduction during a deposition, it was fair game. They also pointed out that the plaintiff had chosen to represent himself. Sensing their prime-time legal drama sleaze was backfiring, the defense switched tactics:

"How did you feel immediately after the doctor cut your toenail?"

"I felt better."

"In terms of percentage, How much better? 10%? 50%?"



"Yes, I felt 100% better."

It took the jury all of half an hour to deliberate. In the end we voted unanimously against Mr Mackaluney. As the one who had voiced an objection, I was chosen as the chairperson and had to deliver the bad news to the poor fellow. Procedure grants the loser the right to tally the votes and he wanted to hear it from each of us. One by one we each said how we voted. How sad.

In the end, one of the jurors told the doctor that although we had voted in his favor, she had had doctors like him before, and that he ought to work on his bedside manner. Indeed.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Learning Lao

So, I've been taking a Lao class twice a week. There are three of us in
the class, previously six, but one got in a severe motorbike accident,
another just stopped showing up and the third is looking for a better

Though he is not the best instructor in the world, our guy does all
right for having been educated in a country where there are very few
books printed in his native tongue. Most textbooks are in Thai and
there is no official transliteration system but rather a hodgepodge of:

French Colonial
(S's are X's, Ch's and J's are Ti and an E after an N at the end of
the word makes the vowel long)

Royal Thai
(H's and L's are R's, which is problematic since the R sound has been outlawed for sounding too regal)


(All CAPS, spa ces be tween cyl a bles and no tone markers.)

Guess which one our teacher uses. When we raised concerns about the method, he simply said, you can write the transliteration however you want.

But it's not as bad as it seems- you just have to overlook the inconsistencies and go with the way things sound rather than how they are spelled. So, for example. three maps might give three different spellings of the same street (provided of course it even has a name) but they'll generally look more or less like the same word, once you know the various systems. And though the Karaoke method lacks tone markers, tones seem to be less important than one would think- context and word order provide enough clues for Lao people to understand you. Plus which, the Lao are very generous listeners, unlike say, Korean cab drivers.

The Lao also love to flatter and be flattered. So even though I can barely say that I don't speak Lao ("khoy bo wow passat lao bodai") they all laugh and say ''Jao wow pasat lao geng lai!'' - You speak Lao very well.

Ah I love this country.